For at least five years (longer in the underground rock world), we’ve been repeating and reliving the 90s. This website is prime evidence– none of us are immune, even worldly sophisticates such as yours truly. Humans are always retreading pop culture from years past. The cartoon snake devours its action figure tail while hissing, “I WASSS ONSSSE A MAAANNN”
As you’ll kindly recall, the 1990s were all about the 1960s and the 60s hangover that was the early 70s. Smash Mouth appeared on the scene in the 1990s as a 60s-schlock appropriating ska-punk band and then ruined rock music forever. Our friends and loved ones wore “flare jeans” from Old Navy that were just rebranded bell bottoms. People sewed little cutesy flower patches all over their jackets, pants, and backpacks. Psychedelic rock came back in a big way and songs got way too long again. And, to add 20 pounds of shit to an already-full 10 pound bag, Austin Powers came along and ruined movie quotes forever.
In 1994, GI Joe was also feeling some 60s nostalgia. To supplement its main GI Joe line and celebrate the brand’s 30th anniversary, Hasbro released a Commemorative Collection of 3 ¾” figures styled after the 12” figures of old. They were counting on older collectors with nostalgia for the old 12” toys to buy these new figures, and probably hoping that some GI Joe-loving kids would pick a few of the toys up, too.
I was a 10 year old kid in 1994, and I only had a loose idea of what GI Joe looked like in the 60s and 70s. But I did have several figures from the Commemorative Collection, which I integrated seamlessly into my ARAH Joe collection.
Today we’re taking a look at the 1994 GI Joe Action Sailor, who is simultaneously a burned-out hippie and a lapdog of the military industrial complex. Nostalgia is fun!
1994 GI Joe Action Sailor: The Ghost of Dollies Past
Several figures from the 30th Anniversary Commemorative Collection were some of the last ARAH-era Joes I got as a kid. I know I received them for Christmas or my birthday, but I don’t recall if that was in late 1993 or late 1994. Regardless, I had the Original Action Team box set, which consisted of (mostly) repaints of the single boxed figures, along with an Action Astronaut and space capsule. I also had a single boxed Action Soldier, because I think some relative got me that as well. I wasn’t mad at having two of the soldiers!
These things kind of blew my mind as a kid for several reasons:
- The sculpting was fantastic and they even had extended trigger fingers
- The face sculpts somehow radiated a “retro” vibe, even though I barely knew what the old GI Joe dolls looked like
- They had tons of fun, useful accessories
- They existed as “army builders” for the good guys
You could argue that Steel Brigade was the first good guy army builder for GI Joe, but I don’t wholly agree with that. I strongly doubt most kids had multiple Steel Brigade figures, and I assume most kids just used their Steel Brigade as their “self insert” figure. Plus, you had to mail away for them and wait a couple months to get one.
With the 30th Anniversary toys, you could just grab them at a store. And then you had generic military forces to aid GI Joe in its fight against Cobra.
The Action Soldier and Action Marine mostly fulfilled this duty for me. The Action Astronaut (an amazing figure, by the way) was often the US astronaut captured by Cobra’s Star Brigade forces, or a civilian scientist who worked alongside Countdown and Ozone. The Action Pilot was sometimes a pilot, but I didn’t have many air vehicles, so was more often a ground crew member or filled a generic support role.
The Action Sailor was a bit different to me back in 1994. I’ve talked before about how I’ve always liked the underwater figures, and the orange Action Sailor was no different. Sure, the Action Sailor could exist as a generic Navy frogman, but he could be something more, too.
I often used the Action Sailor as another character wearing a diving suit. You couldn’t see the figure’s face, so he could be Flint, Tunnel Rat, Falcon, or even Psyche-Out going on a deep sea rescue mission, an island infiltration mission, or an underwater sabotage mission.
Because of the box set figure’s orange color scheme, he could work as a civilian diver, too. In the context of underwater action heroes, it was a very versatile toy.
If you think about it, my use of the figure kind of parallels what kids in the 60s and 70s did with their GI Joes. Joe would don a different outfit and fill a different role. I had a few of the 12” Hall of Fame figures in the early 90s, along with a couple costumes/dress-up outfits, so it’s possible that’s where I got the idea for my 3 ¾” figures.
I saw a lot of value in the 30th Anniversary toys as a kid, but I don’t think they had the crossover value Hasbro was relying on. I’m willing to bet that kids like me enjoyed them much more than older collectors of the time did.
Plus, these were boxed figures with intricate accessories– I’m not sure on what they sold for in 1994, but I’m sure it was more than a Battle Corps figure.
I do think Hasbro got their money’s worth from these molds, as they sold slightly modified versions as keychains starting in 1998. So it probably wasn’t a total loss.
Today, we’re looking at the regular boxed GI Joe Action Sailor figure from 1994. I never had this exact one as a kid, so I’m going in with fresh eyes. Let’s get to the review!
1994 GI Joe Action Sailor Review
Okay, just look at this box with its gold foil logo, tons of text information, and vintage 60s art direction. It’s gorgeous!
But it’s also a window box, so you can open the flap to read even more text and get a good look at the figure. The whole thing is a stellar presentation.
I don’t remember the packaging on the Commemorative Collection figures from my youth, but as soon as I started to look at this Action Sailor’s box, I was thrilled. This really feels like a deluxe figure, and I’m sure that’s what Hasbro was going for.
Inside the box you’ll find a red card with the figure’s blister bubble attached to it. You’ll also see the figure, a couple loose accessories, and two big blue accessory trees. I’m sure the trees looked “cheap” to some older collectors at the time, and I’m sure some of them were turned off by the blue color.
I was puzzled by the blue accessories at first, too. The box set Action Sailor had black accessories, so that’s what I remembered. I actually ended up liking them, though. The blue works great with the figure’s mostly-black appearance, and gives it a nice pop of color. It’s not “super realistic,” but it’s quite aesthetically pleasing. Sure, it’s blue, but it’s not garish.
Your first job after you open the figure is to pull the gear off of the tree and snap it together. Pulling accessories off of GI Joe weapons trees is pretty easy– you don’t really even need scissors. You’re left with relatively clean looking gear even if you just twist each piece off the tree. That was refreshing to me after I opened a 1990 TMNT April O’Neil a few days ago and her accessory tree broke my hobby snippers.
So, you snap the sea sled together and attach the torpedo launcher. You also snap the figure’s oxygen tanks together, which is pretty wild! I don’t remember ever having to put two halves of a standard GI Joe figure’s backpack together before.
Here’s the figure:
And here’s the figure from the back:
The figure itself has a detailed, realistic sculpt. There’s clear plastic for the diving mask, straps and buckles picked out in silver, and all sorts of nice texture on the wetsuit. The figure has bare hands and feet to resemble his 12” ancestor. I will say that while I understand why they went with the bare feet, I think it makes the figure look a bit awkward when he’s wearing his flippers because it dials down the “realism” a bit on what is otherwise a very realistic figure.
Notably, the figure is lacking some of the paint that the Original Action Team box set has, and is missing a few details shown on the box’s beautiful painted design. I think a bit more paint for his watch and oxygen tank straps would have been nice.
Here he is with the Original Action Team box set version (right) and keychain box set version (left). I don’t own the single boxed keychain release.
The figure looks good enough to fill in a background spot without his gear, but with his gear he really comes alive.
Here’s the figure All Geared Up:
As you can see, he comes with a lot of stuff. There’s a sea sled with a detachable missile launcher, missile, swim fins, oxygen tanks, oxygen hose, flashlight, and spear gun. Most of these accessories are blue, but they make the figure look great when he’s using them. His swim fins are similar to the ones that came with Wet-Suit v3 and v4, Deep Six v3, Undertow v2, and a couple others. His flashlight was originally seen with Wet-Suit v1. Everything else, though, is unique to the figure. Except maybe the missile, but I’m not looking that up because who cares.
Speaking of the missile, this missile launcher is powerful. The missile makes a rather sickening, upsetting click when you load it into the launcher, but when you fire it, it’s actually kind of insane. I’ve never seen a single carded GI Joe figure missile launcher that has this much power.
The launcher is supposed to attach to the sea sled, but you could probably make the figure hold the launcher as its own accessory. I didn’t try that because I am neither 10 years old nor a person who has ever wanted to see a GI Joe diver with a blue bazooka.
The sea sled itself is a cool piece. The figure fits on it nicely just by gripping the handles, and it’s great to see a diver that comes with his own transportation. The torpedo launcher gives it an added kick, too. I loved the sea sled that came with 90s Wet-Suit, but this one is even better.
The oxygen tanks and hose work very well, too. The hose plugs into the tanks and the figure effortlessly. After fussing with one of the many 00s Wet-Suit repaints and some Black Major Eels to take photos for this review, I appreciated how nice and easy the Action Sailor’s gear is.
He holds the (large) spear gun very well, and the flashlight works great, too. The package art shows him with a knife, and that would have been a great accessory to get. Him not including a knife is maybe my only gripe with the figure’s accessory loadout.
And, if I have one more gripe, it’s related to the air hose. When you attach the hose to his mask, it forces the figure’s head up slightly and hinders the articulation just a bit. But, seeing as how the hose doesn’t detach every time you move the figure like some other GI Joe toys, I think it’s a minor nit at most.
Also, does Action Sailor remind anyone else of the frogmen from Jonny Quest?
This figure looks great, but it’s not super versatile. Unlike 92 or 93 Wet-Suit (or even his original version) or the 92-93 Eel, this figure doesn’t look great in land-based settings. He does look good on just about any water vehicle in the line, and he’s perfect for any underwater scenario. He can be an adventurer, a Navy frogman, or your favorite character suited up for an undersea mission, but that’s where it ends.
Action Sailor looks especially good with 94 Shipwreck and both 90s Wet-Suit figures, though. He’s a perfect background figure for a USS Flagg and he’s a great foreground figure for any sort of water-based photo, diorama, or display.
I like diver figures, so that’s good enough for me. I think this figure succeeded at bringing a little bit of the 1960s into the 1990s, and succeeded by his own merit as a 3 ¾” GI Joe action figure. To me, he’s always fit in seamlessly with my GI Joe world.
Overall: Though he doesn’t have as many paint operations as the orange box set version and has a bit of a retro feel, the 1994 GI Joe Action Sailor stands tall alongside the best diver figures in the vintage toy line. He has a few little problems (some unpainted details, the way the flippers look on his feet, the hose restricting head articulation), but he’s a great “realistic” frogman and a successful good guy army builder. This is also an affordable figure, so he’s recommended.
- Action Sailor at 3DJoes
- Action Sailor (orange box set version) at Forgotten Figures
- Action Sailor (orange box set version) at Joe a Day
- Action Sailor at YoJoe
Final Thoughts on 1994 GI Joe Action Sailor
Hey, I finally did another GI Joe review. Thanks for reading it!
I’ve already gushed about why I love the 30th Anniversary Commemorative Collection. Did you like those figures? Do you like their accessories? How do you use them in your collection? Let me know in the comments!